Review: Blackbird, East Riding Theatre, Beverley

Malcolm Tomlinson and Hester Arden in Blackbird

Malcolm Tomlinson and Hester Arden in Blackbird

Audiences experience theatre along a continuum of feeling.

At one end there is the froth of some musical theatre and farce. At the other, there is the dramatic confrontation of lives in crisis.

East Riding Theatre is to be congratulated for bringing us Blackbird, surely a play at the ferocious end of that continuum.

The set is the rest room of a factory with the detritus of a careless workforce littering the floor and tables.

Enter Ray. played by Malcolm Tomlinson, and Una, Hester Arden.

Using dialogue as clipped as any by Harold Pinter, we learn that Una, now 26, was abused as a child by Ray.

Una has tracked Ray down from a photograph in a trade journal picked up in a doctor’s waiting room.

She has driven many miles to challenge him on the events of 14 years before.

This is pin-drop theatre, as the audience are introduced to the details of the their relationship and the subsequent traumas.

There are twists and turns as first Una then Ray soliloquise their part in the story.

After recriminations and violence, there is a cathartic moment and they are almost reconciled to their pasts, but a new factor enters into the plot and the audience is thrown back on doubt and suspicion.

Hester Arden is magnificent as the bruised Una, struggling to understand what has happened to her and why Ray still seems to exert control.

Malcolm Tomlinson portrays Ray as plausible and reformed, but there is an undertow of deceit.

Plausibility does not equal honesty. At no point do we really trust him and the last moments reaffirm our doubts.

The performance and interaction of these two is well worth the (modest) price of the ticket.

Blackbird runs until February 27 with performances daily at 7,30pm.

Tickets: 01482 874050.